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That's the lede from Dashka Slater's 1995 exquisitely written cover story, "Boulevard of Broken Dreams," which explores Oakland's sex-worker industry in a row of motels on MacArthur Boulevard in the mid-'90s.
Sex work, from the rights of adult sex workers to the horrors of child sex trafficking, is another topic that the Express has examined often in its history.
Also, "Redefining Sex Work," by Ellen Cushing, Oct. 17, 2012.
27. "Behind Closed Doors," by Katy St. Clair, Sept. 15, 2000
Eighteen years ago, Katy St. Clair penned what was perhaps the Express' best cover story lede: "How do you prepare to meet a monster? The question came to me as I found myself crying in the grocery line, drinking more beer than necessary, and having more and more difficulty focusing my thoughts ..."
St. Clair was referring to the days before she met face-to-face with the notorious child kidnapper and pedophile Kenneth Parnell at his West Berkeley home.
It was an unforgettable true crime yarn — and part of another Express tradition: "Little Miss Murder," by Susan Goldsmith, July 9, 2003; "Sir Dyno's Deal with the Devil," by Justin Berton, Oct. 1, 2003, "At Large," by Robert Gammon Jan. 12, 2005.
28. "Blood & Money," by Chris Thompson, Nov. 13 and 20, 2003
Chris Thompson's epic two-part investigative report on the North Oakland cult leader Yusuf Bey and the violent crime family behind Your Black Muslim Bakery stands out as one of the greatest pieces of journalism the Express has ever produced. It also was a frightening time for Chris. After the stories came out, he was forced into hiding because members of Bey's family were stalking him. Five years later, Bey's family members murdered Oakland journalist Chauncey Bailey.
Chris Thompson died in January 2016. He was a one of a kind. And his reporting on the Black Muslim Bakery was his finest hour.
29. "Gary for Governor!" by Chris Thompson, Aug. 6, 2003
Yes. We ran Gary Coleman for governor during the absurd 2003 recall election that gave us Arnold Schwarzenegger. We still think Gary would've been better.
30. "2003 Illustrated," by Express staff, Dec. 31, 2003
Every December, the Express publishes its special Year in Review issue, highlighting the top stories of the past 12 months. But in 2003, we smashed the mold with "2003 Illustrated," a year in review with comics.
The best comic strip of the group was perhaps Chris Thompson's "Trouble in Oaklandria," in which Thompson lampooned then-Mayor Jerry Brown as "Jerry Brownicus," head of the troubled Roman city-state "Oaklandria."
That year, Brown had fired much of his top staff, including City Manager Robert Bobb over Bobb's plan to build a new A's ballpark in downtown rather than housing.
"Robert Bobbus ... had bored Brownicus with talk of a new stadium for the Oaklandria Alphas," Thompson wrote, adding that Brownicus said to Bobbus, "My vestal virgins want elegant density, not sweaty decathlons! Seize him!"
Funniest. Express. Ever.
Over the years, the pages of the Express have been blessed with some of the best food writing anywhere, from Jonathan Kauffman and John Birdsall to Luke Tsai and Janelle Bitker.
Not only have they exposed readers to numerous small, out-of-the-way eateries in the East Bay, but they've produced some of our finest cover stories: "Barrel Fever," by Jonathan Kauffman, June 14, 2006; "La Vida Taco," by John Birdsall, Feb. 4, 2009; "The Tipping Point," Feb. 18, 2015; "The Woman Behind Oakland's Mobile Food Scene," by Janelle Bitker, Nov. 1, 2017.
32. "Touchy Feely," by Stefanie Kalem, Oct. 5, 2005
Express journalists have a long history of participating in subcultures in order to fully understand them. Former staffer Stefanie Kalem wrote recently about her experience writing a 2005 piece about cuddle parties: "For many years after I left the Express, when people asked if I'd written anything that they may have read, it was always 'the Cuddle Party story,' a.k.a. 'Touchy Feely' that they remembered. [Staff writer] Will Harper didn't want the story so he suggested giving it to me, probably since I had been to Burning Man a few times. I embarrassed the hell out of myself at an editorial meeting after attending my first cuddle party by saying, in a fit of nervous bravado, that myself and the photographer were easily the hottest people at the party. It was a fun story to write but I'm not sure it's what I'd want as my East Bay journalistic legacy."
33. "Yelp and the Business of Extortion 2.0," by Kathleen Richards, Feb. 18. 2009
Kathleen Richards' 2009 exposé on Yelp's practice of shaking down small businesses by highlighting negative customer reviews if they didn't buy ads on Yelp is still the most-read story in the history of EastBayExpress.com. It's also one of the best cover stories we've ever printed.
Here are Richards' recent thoughts on it: "I've written about all sorts of topics in my nine (non-consecutive) years at the Express — about pagan parents and gun-toting motorcycle dudes, Hate Man (RIP) and evangelical college students — but there's one story that has stayed with me. We had gotten a tip from a local business owner who said that Yelp sales reps were offering to move or remove his negative reviews if he advertised with them. He likened their tactics to the mafia's. Our sales reps said they were hearing similar stories from local business owners. These allegations had come up before, but Yelp had always denied them, and media outlets just chalked it up to a big misunderstanding despite what so many people were telling them.